UK minister says Palestine 'River to Sea' chant warrants police action for 'anti-Semitism'

UK minister says Palestine 'River to Sea' chant warrants police action for 'anti-Semitism'
Nadhim Zahawi's latest remarks come amid what student activists say is a campaign to clamp down on pro-Palestine activism on campuses.
2 min read
29 January, 2022
Nadhim Zahawi urged university campuses to crack down on activity deemed antisemitic. [Getty]

A UK minister said on Wednesday that pro-Palestine activists who use the slogan “From the river to the sea” should be referred to police, saying that the chant is an example of anti-Semitism.

The slogan has long been used to refer to the creation of a Palestinian state within the boundaries of historic Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

"Any form of anti-Semitism or prejudice promoting the murder of Jewish people is in my book anti-Semitic and therefore you should act on that," Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said in an online conference on anti-Semitism hosted by his department.

"This is a proscribed organisation and they should be reported to the police,” he added, in apparent reference to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist faction falsely credited as having coined the slogan.

While hardline Zionists and their supporters allege that the slogan implies the removal of Jews from the area to pave the way for a Palestinian state, pro-Palestine activists dismiss this charge, saying it refers only to the creation of a state and the end of Israel’s illegal occupation.

Far-right Zionists, meanwhile, have also used the slogan to call for the creation of a Jewish state, which would further displace Palestinians from their homes.

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In 2015, Israel's former Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely urged Jewish lawmakers to push Israel’s Biblical claim over land, which now makes up Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"The international community deals with considerations of morality and justice. Facing this, we have to return to the basic truth of our right to this land. This entire land is ours. All of it, from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River, and we are not here to apologise for this,” Hotovely said.

Hotovely, who now serves as Israel’s ambassador to the UK, was confronted late last year by student protesters who chanted pro-Palestine slogans at the former minister as she visited the London School of Economics (LSE).

The protesters, who also chanted the “River to the Sea” slogan, were branded as anti-Semitic by a number of UK government ministers.

In response to government ministers’ remarks, the LSE for Palestine student group slammed what it called a "gross imbalance of power at play here,[with] politicians at the very top of the British government unjustly singling out university students for protesting the racism of the representative of a nuclear-armed ally of Britain".